Grand Teton National Park is launching a new Tribal Youth Corps program this summer. The goals of the program are to reconnect American Indian youth with the Grand Teton landscape while assisting with cultural preservation projects, and to introduce participants to careers in the National Park Service.
The program provides hands-on opportunities for native youth to connect nature and cultural history by participating directly in heritage preservation. Grand Teton National Park’s charismatic wildlife and dramatic landscape often overshadows the rich cultural history of the park, which includes nearly 700 historic structures, and several archaeological sites, cultural landscapes, and culturally significant sites.
The Tribal Youth Corps is focusing their efforts on improving infrastructure and visitor access within the Mormon Row Historic District. Participants constructed rustic wooden footbridges to help preserve irrigation ditches, built gates, and established a “no-parking” zone in front of the TA Moulton Barn to facilitate revegetation and unobstructed views. A second group of participants will complete construction of a footbridge, improve drainage around the historic buildings for preservation purposes, and replacing fencing.
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “It is an honor to host these American Indian youth and have their help with projects within the park.” This program will help to reconnect native communities with the landscape their ancestors have called home for thousands of years, and with the National Park Service’s management of those lands. Vela said, “I hope this program will create a greater connection to the park for these participants, and perhaps a related career choice as well.”
The Tribal Youth Corps was established through a partnership with the Montana Conservation Corps. High school students from the Wind River, Wyoming and Fort Hall, Idaho communities were recruited for the program. In exchange for lending a hand in preservation, the students receive housing, an educational award, and a stipend for their efforts. Although most of their time is spent completing hands-on projects, the participants also receive career information from National Park Service professionals such as civil engineers, park rangers and firefighters. It is anticipated that the program may pilot innovative career opportunities. The program creates a unique opportunity for the students and it helps fulfill the National Park Service Centennial goal of relevancy with the next generation.
The Tribal Youth Corps is supported by Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Additional support for the program was provided by the Montana Conservation Corps and the National Park Service. Park managers hope to continue the program in the future.